Celebrating American tennis: Success is a true team effort
The task of designing a pathway of development that creates a pipeline for the next generations of top American professionals is a Herculean one. It is not an effort that can be owned; rather, it is an effort that must be shared.
With that in mind, in 2008, when the USTA decided to fully fund a comprehensive structure to support an American pathway of development for juniors, collegians and professionals, the current iteration of the USTA’s Player Development Department was born. As part of that process, there was an increased focus on reaching out to private sector coaches throughout the country, and to the 17 USTA sections in a systematic way in order to assess what an optimal American developmental pathway should look like.
That listening and presenting tour was a learning experience for all involved. It uncovered consistent themes, enabling us to build consensus by understanding and embracing our shortcomings, as presented by those who were working the front lines of our sport at the local level on a daily basis.
We came to these meetings with humility and a learning mindset, and left them with powerful insights and recommendations from our future partners in the private sector and in the section offices.
And learn we did. There was a strong consensus at every workshop in every section, that the principles of the USTA Teaching & Coaching Philosophy as developed and presented by Jose Higueras represented a framework of development which was proven, simple and effective; and one into which every coach could integrate their knowledge, expertise and experience.
These findings were consistent across the country, and although every section had different challenges, strengths and weaknesses, the overarching takeaway was that the best private sector coaches and the best private sector programs in the country wanted a strong partnership with the USTA, predicated on trust and respect.
In the years that followed, from 2010 from 2020, Player Development worked in partnership with the USTA’s 17 sections to design and deliver a developmental pathway built on a foundational teaching and coaching philosophy and three core programs:
A progression of training camps throughout the country (approximately 60 per year), in which national coaches worked side-by-side with private coaches to deliver sectional, regional and national camps for the best juniors ages 11-14.
A structure of regional training centers, in which the USTA gave support and funding to the top developmental programs throughout the country to facilitate junior development and coaching education throughout the country.
The establishment of coaching commissions in every section, with the support and guidance of section staff for Player Development, to better identify players who were late-bloomers, multi-sport athletes and/or economically disadvantaged for selection for section camps.
- Gauff, McNally
The result of the three-way partnership between what's now USTA Player & Coach Development, the private sector and the USTA sections was a shared vision and a commitment to work together—not to seek personal credit, but to make American tennis great.
From our section Player Development managers, to our private sector junior coaches, to the players and parents coming through all of those camps year after year, all shared an understanding of how to teach and train the fundamentals of the game; all of these things helped to drive the growth and success that U.S. tennis is currently enjoying.
With participation in the sport increasing in each of the last three years, and American professionals making their mark consistently on the game’s biggest stages, we are seeing the tangible results of our collective efforts.
The process of building this three-way partnership and the optimization of our Player Development philosophy-driven structure and system was a labor of love for all involved.
On our part, we became a learning organization with a growth mindset and service mentality. The private sector’s trust and participation in every single camp that we executed created an army of coaches that worked with us every day and taught us how to do a better job of serving and supporting them. Our section staff for Player Development functioned as advisors and consultants guiding us in customizing our tactics in the 17 different sections.
To our colleagues in the sections and to our partners in the private sector, we say thank you for your help, guidance and support, and congratulations on the many success stories that you’ve written. We look forward to continuing to work closely with all of you to keep writing more of them, and to keep our sport and its players growing strong.
Let's make the next 10 years even better for American tennis!